ATLANTA — The Washington Football Team traveled south in desperate need of a win and nearly returned to D.C. cemented as one of the worst teams in the NFL.
Instead, Taylor Heinicke happened.
Quarterbacks aren’t supposed to roll left, far left, keep scrambling and then throw entirely across their body and across the field to a running back. But Heinicke did just that, and it worked, and it might have saved Washington’s season in a stunning 34-30 win against the Atlanta Falcons.
Heinicke connected with J.D. McKissic for a 30-yard touchdown catch-and-run with only 33 seconds left. It was downright incredible.
The offense kept Washington in the game all day long because the defense flat-out stunk.
Jack Del Rio’s defense, expected to be the team’s strength, delivered a flat-out embarrassing performance. The Falcons came into the contest among the bottom 10 units in the league, and Atlanta proceeded to roll offensively to the tune of 374 yards and 30 points.
The third down defense is offensive, and Washington’s prolonged inability to force punts has reached below sea level.
Terry McLaurin and Taylor Heinicke attempted heroics. The duo connected for a late touchdown that gave Washington late life, but eventually, the team needed stops and Washington’s defense could not muster them until the very end.
- Best player on the field – There is no more debate that McLaurin is the best player in Washington. He finished with six catches for 123 yards and two touchdowns. He makes the circus catches look routine and the routine look tremendous. He’s the real deal.
- You better bounce back – Heinicke played his worst last week in Buffalo and responded with a strong effort in front of friends and family in his hometown. He finished with 290 passing yards, completing 70% of his passes and was very active with his legs too. In this game the Washington offense wasn’t the problem.
- Homecoming crowd – Heinicke got to play in his hometown but so did Antonio Gibson. And he was quite good, too. The running back finished with 75 total yards and a touchdown. A serious weapon for Washington.
- Big play machine – Fans will long remember the 30-yard TD from McKissic. He’s a great third down back and not solely because of his ability with the football. McKissic provided a number of insane blitz pickups throughout the game in addition to his 59 yards of offense.
- Going to the top – Jack Del Rio has some serious explaining to do. Washington’s secondary is a mess and giving up big plays seems to be the norm. Atlanta is not an offensive juggernaut, yet against Washington, it seemed that way. At one point in the second half the Falcons had converted 70% of their third downs. 70. Miscommunication, bad tackling, it was all on display. Again. And it was bad.
- Hit and wrap – Washington’s tackling was its worst of the season on Sunday in Atlanta, and the biggest problem was from the linebackers and secondary. Landon Collins had a few high-profile whiffs and rookie Jamin Davis seemed lost in the run game.
- On the hop – Dustin Hopkins missed two extra points. Washington almost lost by two points before Heinicke’s heroics. That’s all that needs to be said. It’s fair to expect some competition at kicker.
- Blow the whistle, blow the game – The refs made a God awful roughing the passer call on Chase Young on a fourth down late in the third quarter. It allowed a Falcons drive to continue and eventually resulted in the go-ahead touchdown with 14:52 to go in the game. Young could have made the sack without going high but the call was terrible and indicative of the bubble wrap treatment that QBs get in the NFL.
- Big bug – The injury bug showed up in a big way – tight end Logan Thomas, wide receiver Dyami Brown and right guard Brandon Scherff all exited the game and couldn’t return. Stay tuned for more information on those players, but any losses like that would be major.